Professional, unbiased reviews of all kosher restaurants located in the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Cafe 921 - 9.2/10 slices

[UPDATE - 2/23/06 - THE PIKES IS ***CLOSED***]

Café 921 can definitely be considered a superior dining experience. Located in a renovated movie theater similar to the Senator Theater in Baltimore, the Pikes at Café 921 offers a quality meal without pressuring your budget. You might go just to grab a bite, but before you know it, the enticing smells will force you to add a few more items to your plate.

Food Quality: The food served at Café 921 is offered buffet-style, with items served from behind the counter by employees to the customers. The most popular tem at Café 921 is certainly the pizza. 921 serves some of the best pizza that the state of Maryland has to offer. In fact, this critic would even go so far as to say that the Pizza at 921 is better than the famed quality of most New York pizzerias. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The pizza, made wood-oven style in an authentic wood-oven, comes in 3 sizes, 10”, 12” and 18”. Since there is little difference between a 10” and a 12”, Café 921 would be better served offering a 14” sized pie. There is a wide variety of toppings, and 921 has recently added both pepperoni and turkey (parve, of course) toppings to the list of available offerings to top that delectable, mouth-watering pizza pie. For those interested in low-fat items, Café 921 offers a “make your own salad” option, a unique choice among Maryland kosher restaurants. The salads come in several sizes as well as flavors, including iceberg lettuce, romaine, spinach, and field greens. For salad toppings, interested diners may choose from 3 regular toppings at no charge, such as sprouts, eggs, carrots, et cetera, and then pay $1 more to get tastier toppings such as feta cheese, smoked salmon, and croutons. The lettuce is always crisp and the dressings are hearty and fill you up, leaving only room for dessert. Café 921 also offers small meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which often consists of either fried fish or salmon with a topping, or lasagna, as well as several pasta or rice side-dishes. These are usually appetizing but not quite as filling as the pizza or counter items. In addition to the meals, Café 921 offers a very large selection of calzones, sandwiches, and other bread products. You can choose these items from several large display cases, all of which are well lit and the items are clearly listed. If this weren’t enough, Café 921 also offers a sushi bar with a venerable list of offerings to choose from, including a Japanese bagel roll, California roll, sweetheart roll, et cetera. Be sure to tell the people behind the counter if you want ginger, otherwise they will usually just serve you wasabi. Since I eat at Café 921 so often, I have fallen into the habit of ordering the same thing, which is a 10 or 12 inch pizza, and a Japanese bagel roll. The 10” is good for one person but there may be a slice or two left-over if you are not a big eater. The 12” is good for two people to eat a small meal, but if you’re hungry, go for the 18”. The interesting thing about Café 921 pizza, is when most pizzas are boxed up and taken home, put in the fridge overnight for the next day, they tend to lose their flavor and/or taste. This is not so with the 921 pizza. I can order an 18 inch pie, take it home, and put it in the toaster oven the next day or later, and be sure that my pizza will taste just as good as it did when I first ordered it. There are also several selections for desert, including cheesecake and chocolate mouse, all of which are excellent and freshly made. However, these tend to be costly and thus, I rarely order these items. 10 slices.

Service Quality: Your pizza will be delivered to you via one of the gentlemen working behind the counter. This assures that if you have any complaints or comments regarding your order, you can make it while at your own table, rather than waiting on line at the counter with other people behind you. Also, there are always people ready to take your order, so there is usually little waiting, unless it is peak time. Saturday nights, the restaurant is usually full. Lines are not short, but are not forever either. For pizza or sushi, you can expect to wait five to ten minutes to place your order, depending on the number of people in front of you. For everything else, there is mostly no wait. During off-peak hours, there is usually no wait at all. 8 slices.

Cleanliness: The restaurant is usually pretty spotless. The floors are swept, and the tables wiped down after almost every usage. However, sometimes people leave trays and items on the table that take a while to be removed, but the tables are always kept clean. This reviewer actually observed an ignorant person changing her baby on one of the tables. When the manager was informed, the person was told in a very polite manner that her conduct was inappropriate for a restaurant, and that there was a changing station in the bathroom. Thus, the management has taken care to ensure that the restaurant maintains its high quality throughout. 9 slices.

Atmosphere: The atmosphere is probably the best part of the restaurant. Café 921 is located on 921 Reisterstown Road, hence the origin of its name. It is housed in a 1930’s style movie theater, and if you walk to the back, you can see actual movie projectors that were used when the old Pikes Theater was in operation. The restaurant is brightly lit, and has beautiful red wallpaper or paint on the side, complimented by vintage Italian framed posters that add a grand style of ambiance to the eatery. There are signs all over the restaurant, clearly demarcating where customers can find certain items, such as a location for washing, fresh water for drinking or for ice, where to order and pay, and of course, the restrooms. There are a variety of different seating arrangements, including large booths for a group, individual tables, as well as raised round individual tables for an Italian style approach, as well as seating behind the sushi bar, and the regular bar in the back, with a television in the rafters. 10 slices.

Price: The prices for most items on the menu are reasonable. The food is excellent, so even if the items were a little more than average, this would be acceptable. However, the dinner meals served in the corner, as well as the salads, do tend to be a dollar or two more than necessary. The cost of the pizza is appropriate for kosher food, and is very competitive with other area restaurants. 9 slices.

The Pikes at Café 921 earned a total of 9.2 slices. This is a very high mark for a restaurant that is not even a year old. The experience has always been wonderful, and despite the large size of the restaurant, it feels like an authentic Italian eatery would be, even though this reviewer has never been to Italy. (Review by Josh)

921 Reistertown Road, Pikesville, MD 21208

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Anonymous David said...

You didn't even mention the bar with its excellent beer selection! The one down side is that the bar's schedule seems to be eratic, you can never tell when it will be open. It was very fun going there for the Superbowl and having quesadillas and Sam Adams. Who thought you could do that kosher?

6:26 AM  
Blogger The Critics said...

I believe I did, "the regular bar in the back, with a television in the rafters" but yes, I didnt really review it.

When we were there, we didnt see the bar. It was sort of partitioned off and nobody was really in there.

However, please feel free to post your comments about the bar and anything else. That's part of what this site is for.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Pierre Sogol said...

one problem I had is they don't offer regular "dairy-free" fish options (the sauces are most often dairy); as for the experience of the place, I don't favor the young ones among the staff.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I went it was really crowded and the staff couldn't follow who had paid and who had not. Not a wonderful way to run a restaraunt, since it made everyone suspect of stealing.

Granted I did not have their pizza. I did have their hot line, which was good, but not amazing.

For another review check out

He also has reviews of other restaraunts such as Pita Plus and the restaurant in Koshermart.

6:54 AM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

It is nice, but you have to be proactive to get food. 9.2 out of 10 slices is a rather lame rating. Did the place really warrant a 9.2 rating, and not a plain 9? Come on Josh, do you really take yourself that seriously. Food there does warrant at least an 8 though and the atmosphere is definetly worthy of a 10, so a 9.0 rating for the place isn't such a bad idea.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The food is not served buffet-style; rather, it is cafeteria-style. Buffet-style would mean that it is all-you-can-eat, which it is not. Big difference.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous BrenMar said...

I regularly enjoy 921. My major complaint, however, is with the design of the order/ purchase/ pay layout. I recently brought an elderly woman (non-kosher eating) to Cafe 921.. She enjoyed the food and the prices, but found the set-up of the resturant incredibly confusing. There are numerous cafe/ buffet style resturants that find successful ways of dealing with the confusion that often results from the self-order/ pick-up and pay stye at Cafe 921. The owners would be well served to check them out.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think Tov Pizza is much better.

8:08 AM  
Blogger davidmartin78624445 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:25 PM  
Blogger David said...

Cafe 921 is closed now, due to money problems. :(

8:18 PM  

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